The Clarks Mills General Store

The Clark’s Mills General Store is pictured in this postcard dated Aug.13, 1909.

The Clark’s Mills General Store is pictured in this postcard dated Aug.13, 1909.

General stores were the center of economic activity in many small communities in the late 1890s and early 1900s, a place where seed and crops were bartered or sold and everything people were not able to make or raise at home or on the farm could be found. The general store was the place to purchase a bar of soap, nails and hardware, thread or broad cloth for making clothes for the family, hats and hat pins, candies, toys and other treasures. Storekeepers were leading citizens of their communities. They extended and denied credit for food, supplies, and other goods against farmers’ next crop. No rural community could hope to become a village without a general store.

The Clarks Mills General Store, built in the 1870s, was originally located in the village of Clarks Mills, just four miles west of its current location as part of the Manitowoc County Historical Society’s Pinecrest Historical Village.

The first land recording for the store’s lot in Clarks Mills lists owner Charles and Maggie Sabin, in 1877. Ella Beach owned the land from 1877 to 1884.

Richard Burke purchased the store lot from Ella Beach in 1884. The Burke family operated the site for about 10 years before moving to the city of Manitowoc, on the corner of 8th and Huron Street. Burke became a lawyer at the law firm of Schmitz, Burke and Craite for many years and also served as city attorney under the administration of Mayor Henry Stolze.

Tragedy struck the Burke family in 1989 with the sudden death of their 12 year old daughter, Ada. According to the Manitowoc Daily Herald on November 26, 1898, “She had been a sufferer from heart trouble for a long time but her death was totally unexpected. She was about the house as usual all day and was apparently in her usual good health and spirits. But the vital spark was extinguished without warning and she passed from life to the shadowy realm as quietly as though dropping into peaceful slumber. The bereaved parents and relatives have the sympathy of the entire community in their affliction.”

The General Store was operated by Michael and Catherina Pritzl around the year 1907 and by William and Rose Klann from 1910 to 1926. The building was purchased by Harold Morgan in 1926, who operated it as “Morgan’s Store” until his death in 1961. The building was sold again in 1977 to Dennis Jagodzinsky who operated it as DJ’s Appliance Sales and Service until 1983.

On March 15, 1988 the General Store made its way to Pinecrest Historical Village and its story continues to be told for thousands of visitors each year. The former Clarks Mills General Store continues to be a meeting place where news is exchanged, mail is sent and received, gossip and tall tales flow around the pot-bellied stove, and checkers and cards are played.